Understanding ECM Is About Dialect

One thing I’ve learned over 15 years in ECM is that there are characteristics in individual systems and solutions that often come to the level of idiosyncrasies.  The problem is that too often people on opposite sides of the table can argue against the same side of a solution for hours without realizing that both sides were talking about the same thing.  Too often we get so wrapped up in our own language of ECM that we don’t realize there are different vendor, industry, and customer dialects.

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The Last Architect

Much is written about the changing role of IT in organizations brought about by the cloud. I truly believe the days of corporate enterprise kingdoms  commanding huge budgets and headcount are numbered. Moving to the cloud and SaaS is simply too compelling of a business argument not to pursue The downstream effects however are not fully realized. Having spent most of my career in some way affiliated with corporate IT I am curious how this new enterprise technology economy affects the growth of those just entering the job market. In one sense, IT heavy lifting first moved off shore and then it left the planet all together and into the cloud. The role that has not and will not float away though is the architect.

For all of the inefficiencies, IT organizations have produced one product that can come from few other sources. Technology savvy subject matter experts capable of connecting complex systems together in their head and on paper. I often descibed my role in the past as the guy who draws boxes on whiteboards, connects them with lines and then explains to developers what the lines are supposed to do. This oversimplified and self-deprecating description is still accurate. It is a skill however that comes less from academics or methodology than from experience.

I did not learn to do this in school. I learned the methodology and notation from books but not the ideas, passion and drive behind the business that the notation represents. There is a belief in the consulting world that every business is the same. That it is exactly like their last contract. To an extent that is true but commonality of competitors is not where advantage is born.

Where will the next generation of architects come from? Where will they pay their dues and learn how to navigate more than code trees and deliverables? How will they learn the corporate skills required to remove political obstacles blocking their technical objectives. As more vertical cloud solutions are implemented there will be fewer opportunities for the small, less risky projects to make mistakes on and learn what is really important in a 1000 line work breakdown structure.

The best architects in IT organizations are those that strike the balance between vision and pragmatism. Pushing the boundary of the possible while keeping the wheels from coming off. Moving and consolidating all of IT to the cloud does indeed make business more efficient but one day the most valuable guy on the team will be the one that knows how to do bring it back to Earth but he will have no where to learn the trade.

Three Tips for Road Warriors

My intent this week had been to start a series of posts on partnering strategies, but all of that changed while I was watching the final quarter of the Giants vs. Cowboys game.  I got a call on my cell phone from a number I didn’t know.  I didn’t answer, instead letting it go to voicemail.   I was tempted to ignore the voicemail.  I don’t know why I decided to listen to it.  I’m glad I did.  A good friend had been in a motorcycle accident, in the woods, over 200 miles from home.  Driving him home the next day, I heard his story. I was reminded about a tip I’ve developed for my travels.  I mentioned this tip, and then a couple of others to Lee, and he said it might be worth sharing with other road warriors.  So here goes.

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If Healthcare Were Software

U.S. Supreme Court building.

The Supreme Court hearings on the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (Obamacare)  last week fascinated me. It is one of the few news stories in recent memory that requires you to think rather than just react. In following the topic, I have tied to compare and look for patterns in other areas of my life to help me understand these complex issues. Maintaining boundaries of the Federal government and the limitation of its powers does not really have a good analog though but I go with what I know best. What if healthcare were like enterprise software? Continue reading “If Healthcare Were Software”

Chief Why Officer

When I was a teenager I visited my father’s office once and learned the most important business lesson of my life. He had retired from the army and was working for the city as an operations supervisor. When you sat in the chair across from him you could see  taped to the wall behind him a piece of paper on the 1970’s era wood paneling.  It looked as if he had cut it out of a magazine like a ransom note.

It contained a single word.  “Why”

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On Leadership and Denial

I had an interesting coversation last night and the topic of leadership came up. Several years ago I was trying to improve my own performance and dived into the plethora of leadership literature out there. John Maxwell, Jack Welch and others have written many great things on the topic but recent chats among friends have crystallized some of the ideas for me.

Three Jobs of Leadership

There are three things that a leader has to do.

  • Define the Present – Call it situational awareness or just being awake, this is the ability to look around and see conditions as they are.
  • Determine the Destination – Vision. This is being able to see things not as they are but how they could be and communicate that to others with passion and confidence for how it will be better
  • Direct the Path – Knowing what is on the other side of the mountain is one thing. Deciding to go around, over or through it is another. I have little use for pure visionaries though. All strategy and no tactics.  To begin the journey you must pick a direction but then you must move.

Broken Leaders

“We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.”  – Francois De La Rochefoucauld

Sometimes leaders break. Overcome by failures of conditions or character and they fall into one of two patterns.

  • They can’t see the future for the present – Overwhelmed by the obstacles around them they settle into the role of manager – simply responding to events and not moving forward
  • They can’t see the present for the future – Unwilling to face challenges and problems directly they refuse to acknowledge them and pretend to progress or worse yet believe they have arrived before they have ever left the starting point

Both are forms of denial that poison an organization’s effectiveness. It is hard but every leader must balance the yin and yang of vision and reality or risk falling into the worst state of all. A loss of credibility and hallucination of success.  (Rule #13)

Listen to Your Own Plumbers

Ron Miller’s piece on Changing the IT Plumber’s Image yesterday was excellent. Most businesses do not see the business value their own IT organizations can and SHOULD be providing. Instead of being seen as the experts who can expand the business through new technology, IT is just somebody you call when your virtual toilet backs up. The analogy of the IT as a plumber has one flaw though. Usually when a plumber leaves things are better than when he got there. Continue reading “Listen to Your Own Plumbers”

When Was Your Last Technology “Refresher”

An assumption that one can make from our blog title is that I’m a big guy.  And one big assumption I made is that I learned everything we need to about exercise when I got out of high school.  No I’m not talking about how the latest elliptical machine works but the most basics of human exercise, running.  As I would try out a new diet program, I would get to a point where I needed to add exercise into the mix.  That would then lead me to walking and then ultimately running.  And after a few times of trying to run I’d usually hit “the wall” at 5 minutes.  Ultimately I’d give up.  Where’s that “Runner’s High”?  But this time around I did something weird, I re-learned how to run.

I found a “new program” for running, called Couch to 5k.  And now after my third weekly run of week six, I ran for 25 minutes straight.  Only three weeks before I thought I was going to die trying to run for 3 minutes.  Now I’m running longer than I ran in high school.

Technology evolves much faster than the human body.  Too often many of us get into a rut thinking we know everything about our chosen technology.  But maybe we need to remember the words of Socrates.

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Straight Talk in User Groups

It’s that time of year again and everyone is deciding which conferences to attend. I enjoy speaking at user groups propably more than any other venue. I always make a point afterward to read the feedback to see if there is anything to improve upon. About a year ago I was priviledged to speak at all of the fall EMC Content Management and Archiving groups on the East coast (NE Boston and NYC, Mid-Atlantic in Philly and SE in Atlanta). I had a blast. From that particular series there was one review out of the stack was particularly negative.

I have come to terms with the fact that as lovable as I am  not everyone will like me. Sometimes there is a personality or history issue that is impossible to overcome no matter how hard you try. Despite the positive responses I always dig into the negative becasue when receiving criticism I have learned to be objective first and ask the question “are they right?” Continue reading “Straight Talk in User Groups”

Sharing Super Powers

A bright light was finally illuminated on some odd questions and conversations I had been hearing lately.  These questions were about how administrators and super users could have super privileges and not have the ability to do everything at the same time.  Sort of like giving Lois Lane kryptonite to make sure that she can get Clark Kent to take out the garbage.  Today I heard the story of Terry Childs (refreshed this link).

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